By Safoura Rigi-Ladiz
Instructors of Langara’s new certificate program, Graphic Novel and Comix, say comics are experiencing a rebirth, and becoming increasingly popular and diverse.
Jonathon Dalton, who teaches in the certificate program, is also the president of Cloudscape Comics, a non-profit organization that works to bring together Vancouver’s comic artists and enthusiasts and provide opportunities for publishing.
“There are so many more people interested in comics now than there were before,” Dalton said. “There are so many different kinds of comics being made now, it’s really exciting.”
When Dalton was a child, he remembered comics being about typical superheroes and appealing to a narrow range of people. These days, he said, that’s no longer the case. Comics are appealing to a broader population and have become more diverse in genres and characters.
As an example, Dalton’s current project is a science fiction comic titled Phobos and Deimos, referring to the two moons of Mars.
“The main character is a refugee from Mars who moves to Earth and goes to high school and has to adapt to a very different culture,” Dalton said.
His story was inspired by his travels, specifically the year he spent living in London working as a substitute teacher.
“All the people that I knew were from all over Europe and all over the world.”
His life felt very international.
Josué Menjivar is a comic book artist, book designer and teaches in the same program at Langara. He also has his own illustration company called Fresh Brewed Illustration.
“More voices are being accepted and being published,” he said “Now there are comics on just about everything, it’s not just action and adventure and superheroes.”
In addition, he said there are many women cartoonists that are telling their stories like never before.
“Comics are normal now but at one point it wasn’t.”
Menjivar said travel had influenced his art, too.
His project “Speaks Softly” was inspired by his trip to El Salvador where he saw an artist painting with coffee. This inspired Menjivar to make his own comic using coffee instead of his traditional or digital drawing mediums.
Cecil Williams, a comic artist and student at Langara currently in their first year of the Graphic Novel and Comix program, has definitely noticed comics and graphic novels on all mediums have been getting a lot of respect.
“It’s really awesome to see how the comics….are evolving,” said Williams who posts web-comics. Their “Damaged Goods” web-comic has just hit its one-year anniversary.
“I’m really proud.”
The many stages of creating diverse comics
Each artist has their own preferred technique when creating comics. Still, whether it’s pen to paper or using digital tools, a lot of similarities can be found, according to a Langara comic teacher who also heads a non-profit comic society.
Dalton has made comics using the computer as well as sketching with pen and paper. Today, though digital comic drawing is thriving, he still prefers using traditional materials and finalizing everything on the computer.
In the first stage, Dalton writes a script. Because comics are a visual medium, he wants to have the drawing part happen as soon as possible.
“I’ll draw small thumbnails with stick figures,” he said. “And then I write the words underneath, just to figure out what’s going to happen in the story.”
The next step is a rough draft with the comics.
“I’ll take my script, and I’ll lay it out to decide what happens on each page,” he said. “I rewrite the dialogue to make it work better. I like to decide on the layout of the page.”
For colouring, Dalton uses Copic or Prismacolor markers.
“I photocopy it onto thinner paper because markers work better. They don’t work as well on Bristol [board],” Dalton said. “This way, if I mess up the markers, I can always re-photocopy it too.”
Dalton finalizes everything by scanning his completed piece and posting it as a webcomic or getting it ready for print.
Menjivar, another comic book artist and comics instructor at Langara, sketches his comics and uses his iPad.
“Generally, [I] do pencil sketches and then I just finish them off with an ink brush, pen, and Pentel brush,” he said. “I will then scan it and then put it into Photoshop.”